There are a lot of projections and conjecture going on when it comes to sustainable packaging.

Consumers are saying they want packaging that is more environmentally friendly, or at least less environmentally harmful. Several studies bear that out.

A white paper on “2019 Food and Beverage Packaging Trends,” based on the annual EcoFocus Trend Study and published by Evergreen Packaging, revealed that 68% of shoppers said it is extremely or very important “to choose foods or beverages that are packaged responsibly.” Another study from the Natural Marketing Institute found that 71% of consumers think that many products are “over-packaged.”

There is continued interest in sustainable packaging among many major food companies that have made very public pledges. Nestle, for example, announced sweeping environmentally driven changes to its packaging, to be rolled out on a continual basis. Kellogg Co. set a goal of 100% reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging by the end of 2025 as part of its global sustainability commitment. Last year, PepsiCo India announced that it is pilot testing 100% compostable plant-based packaging for its Lays and Kurkure brands.

More recently, at Natural Products Expo West, LivBar’s chief executive officer Wade Brooks challenged nutrition bar makers to think about the health of the planet as much as the health of the consumer, noting that they are part and parcel.

“We would like to challenge all bar manufacturers to move to 100% compostable wrappers,” he said.

These are no small or temporary shifts. This is a sea change — especially when consumers are alarmed at the amount of plastic in the actual sea.

“Brands and marketers need to begin thinking of packaging as an extension of the ingredients list, to recognize that grocery shoppers are looking at the total package — literally,” said DeWitt Clark, vice-president of sales and marketing, North American packaging, Evergreen Packaging.

Several baking and snack companies have already invested in sustainable materials and processes. As part of its ongoing changes, Nestle is soon switching to new paper packaging for its line of Yes! snack bars.

In addition to paper-based solutions, more recyclable packages are making their way into the market. In the U.K., Roberts Bakery is introducing 100% recyclable sleeves for its artisan breads.

In the U.S., Annie’s, a General Mills brand, teamed up with American Packaging Corporation to develop a recyclable metallized film for some of its snack packages. After consumption, the packages can be brought to a designated recycling drop-off location instead of going into the general waste stream.

More changes may come from the back end of the food chain, from consumers and retailers and food service operators back to manufacturers. In Europe, for instance, some supermarkets have aisles with no plastic packages.

Meanwhile, a flurry of work is being done on sustainable packaging materials, to woo eco-conscious consumers and for the loftier goal of sustainability. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are working on solutions for converting woody plants into a renewable placement for petroleum-based plastics. Nestle, for its part, has launched an Institute of Packaging Sciences to develop sustainable packaging materials and team up with industry partners on innovative solutions.